This month in honour of RUOK DAY on September 8, I want to talk about mind fitness. Exercise keeps our bodies fit and healthy. However, our minds are just as important as our muscles, so this month, let’s incorporate mental health in our workouts!
As actors, our imaginations, and ability to believe and see beyond our noses is what makes us unique from one another. We work for years developing the ability to bring a role to life, but what we are never taught is how to “cool down” and shake off the residual matter left by a performance.
I remember playing a mother who had just discovered her husband was abusing their children; after one rehearsal, I found myself in a ball sobbing long after the scene had ended and stuck in a dark cloud of despair. My director’s advice was that I needed to find a way out. DUH! Of course I did, but how?
Is that not a crucial part of training? Are surgeons taught to open a body, and then told, “Hey, you guys now need to figure out yourselves how to sew that kid up!” I don’t think so!
However, I’m not here to talk about the shortcomings of higher education. I have since (after many a trial and error) unearthed my own ways to disconnect from the work.
It’s not just performance hangovers that can affect us though. A study completed by The University of Sydney on almost 800 actors showed we “experience significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress than the general population.” Contributing factors to this are low levels of income, a high rate of harassment or bullying in the workplace, and performance anxiety. Also, a lack of coping mechanisms were shown to manifest in a high percentage of actors using alcohol and drugs as a way of “letting go.”
I’ve just returned from Los Angeles where I was running around for two weeks meeting people and selling myself. It was amazing; I had a great time! Yet, if I told you it was a breeze and I was completely holistic and content, it would be a big fat lie. It was tough. I had more than my fair share of large glasses of wine that were followed by a big exhale after a long day of running between offices and spending hours in LA traffic (that’s enough to drive anyone mad!). What saved me was my girlfriend and her family, who I was staying with, and our hikes!
LA is amazing for hiking, with all the beautiful trails and mountains to climb, it is fitness made easy, breezy, really beautiful, and its freeeeee!!!
These are my top tips for Mind Fitness.
- Go outside. Breathe fresh air. Make an effort to be awestruck! Walk to the top of the mountain and watch the sunrise or sunset, or simply see the wind dancing through the trees. Noticing and appreciating the little things reminds me when I’m low that, as my Granny used to say, “This too shall pass.”
- Be grateful. I have a book by my bed that I use to write three things I am grateful for each night before I sleep. It has made a remarkable difference in my life. I notice things more, I enjoy the people around me more, and I go to sleep with a smile.
- Love Yourself! Love is a verb, a doing word, so get out there and do something for yourself. Take yourself on a date, buy that item you’ve been looking at for a while, go and pick yourself some flowers! When you start treasuring yourself and treating you with the respect you show others, our brains follow suit. All the negative self talk and dismissive thoughts slowly, but surely begin to disappear.
- Open Up. Our loved ones are our life force. Trust them to be there for you. I have struggled a lot with ego, wanting everyone to think I’m on top of it all. Once I started trusting people and allowing my vulnerability out, my problems dissipated. They didn’t disappear, but they seemed a hell of a lot lighter and manageable when I shared them. I got to go back to my girlfriend in LA and have a laugh at silly things I had done (i.e. I told Tracy Letts, August: Osage County was the best thing I had ever written?!?!). I carried a watermelon!! I would fret about emails not coming, all the while running after her dog, trying to stop the two year old pooping in the garden, and making avocado on toast, whilst diving for the glass of rosé we both desperately deserved! A phone call is equally as effective. Just talk it out with someone you trust. Or if you don’t feel you can, beyondblue have a great support service on 1300 22 4436.
- Breathe. When it all feels like its getting too much, I walk away. I look around me and I take deep, deep breaths.
- EXERCISE! Well, this is a fitness blog! I’ve spoken about this before, but exercise is magic in every way!!! Do it!
My challenge for you this month is to grab a friend, go for a hike, get to the highest point, and look around. Find three things you’re grateful for, three career goals for the next 6 months, and do 50 burpees!! You’ll feel amazing, and don’t forget to always ask RUOK?
Until next month,